Mayor Pete Buttigieg: ‘I Think And Act On Race In A Way Very Few White Politicians Have’

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - JUNE 09:  Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has two events scheduled in the state on Tuesday.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mayor Pete Buttigieg: ‘I Think And Act On Race In A Way Very Few White Politicians Have’

The 37-year-old is fighting for the Black vote.

Published September 17, 2019

Written by Clay Cane

Mayor Pete Buttigieg has made history as the first openly gay candidate to run for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana has received tons of media attention and is known for his powerful speeches and compassionate views. Nonetheless, Mayor Pete is seriously struggling with Black voters. As of a CNN/SSRS poll from September 11, 2019, he is only polling at 2 percent with African Americans who are registered to vote.

The road to winning the Democratic primary is through Black voters and without this key voting bloc, the combat veteran has no chance of winning. However, he is still fighting, asking and planning for your vote.

Mayor Pete Pete Buttigieg was one of several presidential candidates who spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C. for the Congressional Black Caucus’ 2019 Annual Legislative Conference (Joe Biden was notably not in attendance). In a one-on-one interview with BET.com, he was candid about his struggle with Black voters but also maintained polls do not show the full picture.  According to Politico, "By 2015, western South Bend gave him his weakest results after his support plunged more than 20 points in some precincts." Western South Bend is the predominantly Black area of the Indiana city. 

"I don't think those numbers tell the whole story," Pete Buttigieg says to BET.com. "In the primary, when you had the most Black voters, my support went up from the first time to the second time. But look, this isn't just about the polls, this is about doing the right thing and trusting that voters will evaluate you based on what you have to offer."

Here is what Pete Buttigieg has to offer: The Douglass Plan, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass (who Trump still thinks is alive). It's impossible to argue the plan, which was released in June, is not thorough in its agenda for the Black community and goes beyond criminal justice reform, which is the only talking point forum our current president, "Yes, we need criminal justice reform, ambitious criminal justice reform that includes cutting incarceration by half, but let's not reduce the Black experience in America to encounters with criminal justice. Let's talk about Black solutions coming from Black entrepreneurs. 

Pete Buttigieg is proposing 25% of federal spending with businesses from that are owned by people who have been historically disadvantaged. "Look at what it would be like if we were co-investing in promising businesses led by Black entrepreneurs, start ups and other kinds of businesses that have the best track record of creating the kind of employment that can help lift people up economically." 

He also stressed health equity,  "We are hearing a lot about the maternal mortality gap for Black women. That's the one that gets the most attention. But there's all kinds of different issues from the detection of diabetes to the experience of pain in hospitals that is racialized right now. So I propose that we fund health equity zones."

Buttigieg also sees a way to connect the dots would be HBCUs and The Douglass Plan would set aside $25 billion. Whether it's needing more Black doctors, teachers, or police officers, he sees HBCUs as a key competent, "The overall thrust needs to be dedicated toward not only building up the capacities of HBCUs and their resources, but, in particular, their ability to cultivate professionals in fields where we've not seen enough diversity."

Nonetheless, optics is everything in politics and Mayor Pete certainly hasn't had the best optics when it comes to the police shooting of 54-year-old Eric Jack Logan. On June 16, 2019, he was shot and killed by a white police officer who claimed he had a knife. Family members have disputed the claim and — quite conveniently — the body cam was turned off. In late June, Pete Buttigieg was seen on camera telling a protester, “I’m not asking for your vote.” The clip went viral and he was slammed on social media. It's a line that still haunts his campaign. See below:

  1. Pete Buttigieg explained, "I think it was misunderstood. What I was saying was, this is not a time for politics. I will earn your vote or I'll try to earn your vote come election time.... And I'm saying, I'm here to talk about keeping our community safe and making our policing more just, I'm not here to campaign, I'm not asking for your vote right now. I will be asking for you to vote right in the campaign season. But this is about our community — that's it. It didn't come across in the clip. But that's what I was saying." He added with a laugh, "That's what happens on Twitter. "

    Mayor Buttigieg was pummeled on Twitter for the viral moment, but it was a stark contrast to 2012. At a rally, in honor of Trayvon Martin who was shot and killed on February 26, 2012, the mayor wore a hoodie in honor of the 17-year-old.

    "People in the community were organizing a Million Hoodie March. The thought that, this young man died because of who he was and what he looked like. I thought it was important that I speak up. It's probably kind of an odd sight for people to see their mayor in a hoodie but I thought that it was important to show that kind of solidarity."  A video of the moment recently resurfaced:

  2. Pete Buttigieg stands by the lessons he has learned serving a diverse community in South Bend, Indiana, which is 26.4% Black, "I think it has compelled me to think and act on race in a way that relatively few white politicians have just because of the realities on the ground."

    Buttigieg stresses this is personal to him as a gay man who has faced his fair share of discrimination —while it's not exactly the same, there is a connection of having your rights threatened, especially as the U.S. Supreme Court will decide next month if someone can be legally fired for being queer. "I know a little bit about what it's like to belong to a group of people that has been feared, hated and denied opportunities and subject to random violence,” he says. ”It propels me to make sure that anybody who is on the wrong side of exclusion in this country, which in some way or another is most of us, has a voice in the White House."

    Lastly, one voting bloc that is surely worth campaigning for is the BeyHive. So we had to ask, what is Mayor Pete’s favorite Beyoncé song? 

    “‘Freedom’ is definitely on my running playlist. It's hard to beat that,” Mayor Pete said with a smile.

    Sounds like Pete Buttigieg just found his new campaign song: “Won't let my freedom rot in hell / Hey! I'ma keep running / 'Cause a winner don't quit on themselves.”

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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